COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office said a second vehicle believed to have been stolen by suspects in the fatal shooting of three family members at a home outside of Whiteville over the weekend has been located in South Carolina.
The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck was stolen from a home outside of Whiteville Sunday night and was later discovered on fire off Morgan Road near Hwy 701 in Loris, S.C. around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a Horry County Police Department report. Police responded to the scene after a passerby saw the truck burning on the side of the road, not far from the state line.
“(The caller) stated that she also noticed a U-Haul truck pulled up nose to nose with the vehicle that was on fire,” the report states. “(The caller) stated she also believes she saw the same U-Haul truck at the Speed Way in Loris parked next to her while she was at pump #3. (She) stated she thought the situation was odd and called the police.”
Investigators believe the truck may have been taken by the two men wanted in the murder of a 5-year-old boy and the child’s mother and father. The grandmother was also wounded by gunfire.
Sheriff Jody Greene says first responders were called to a home on Brittany Lane just before 7 a.m. Saturday. When they arrived, they found four people with gunshot wounds. Despite crew’s efforts to save the victims, Leonel Ciprian Noyola, his wife, Nancy Trujillo Espinoza, and his 5-year-old son, Alexis Trujillo, died.
The child’s grandmother, Rafaela Noyola Jaramillo, was taken to Columbus Regional Healthcare and is expected to survive.
Deputies are still looking for suspects they say stole the victims’ car, a 2011 silver Ford Fusion.
The sheriff’s office said Monday that at approximately 7:15 p.m. Sunday, another vehicle was reported stolen in the 3000 block of New Britton Highway outside of Whiteville.
The victims told investigators that two men operating a silver Ford Fusion arrived at their residence and inquired about a vehicle they had for sale.
“After speaking with the victims, one of the males entered the vehicle, a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, and sped off as the other male left in the Ford Fusion. The suspects listed in this case matched the description of the individuals involved in a triple homicide on Brittany Lane,” the sheriff’s office said. “Additionally, the silver Ford Fusion matched the description of the vehicle stolen from the homicide scene.”
The Ford Fusion later was located on Twin Pines Road. No individuals were found with the vehicle.
Sheriff Jody Greene says deputies are working around the clock to bring the suspects to justice. Investigators believe this was a targeted crime and there is no ongoing threat to the general public.
Anyone with information should call the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office at 910-640-6629.